The past four years have felt like a limbo for the UK; are we leaving the European Union (EU) or are we staying? What does the transition period mean and how long will it last? When will things change? Now, the real Brexit date is nearly here.

Until 1st January 2021, you’re free to drive within the EU for work or pleasure, with a UK licence and without any additional documents. If you move to another EU country, you can exchange your driving licence for one from your new home country without having to retake a driving test.

But what happens after the 1st January 2021?


Driving in the EU: Permits and documents

You might need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU from next year. Luckily these only cost £5.50 and are available at post offices on a quick turn-up-and-go basis. This requirement would apply to both driving your own car or hiring a car in the destination.

You’d need to plan this ahead as there are different types of IDPs, based on what country you’re driving in. One is valid for 12 months in Ireland, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, and another is valid for 3 years and recognised in the rest of the EU countries, Norway and Switzerland. There is now also a third type of permit. This means you might need to buy several IDPs, if you’re travelling through multiple countries.

Not having the correct IDP could get you turned away at the border or result in fines. Some border controls could also ask to see proof of your return ticket and sufficient travel funds. Checking your passport will also be important; some countries might require one that is valid for a minimum of six months.


Brexit and car insurance: Green Cards

You can request a Green Card (or International Motor Insurance Certificate, IMIC) from your insurer, otherwise, you’d need to buy local insurance in the country you’re travelling to. Without proof of third party insurance, you might not be allowed to drive or get fined. You might also be required to get separate insurance for trailers, meaning you’ll need a separate Green Card too.

Have a look at our FAQs for more information.


Living in an EU country: Licence exchange

If you’re a UK licence holder living in the EU or you’re planning to move to an EU country after the Brexit date, you might not have the right to drive with your UK driving licence anymore. Depending on the laws of your new home country, you might need to retake a driving test.

You can drive with your EU licence when visiting the UK and you’ll be able to re-exchange it, if you return permanently.


Road accidents in the EU: Making a claim

The UK are likely to withdraw from the Protection of Visitors, meaning that UK residents will not be able to make a claim through UK-based Claims Representatives or the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB) for an accident that’s happened within the EU. Claims would need to be made directly to the foreign insurer or the foreign equivalent of MIB – this could mean having to make the claim in the local language.

With all incidents, it is still important that you contact your UK insurer as soon as possible.


UK vehicle identification: Plates and stickers

Maybe you have a ‘Euro-plate’, showing both the EU flag and a GB sign, but after the transition period, you might need a GB sticker in addition, or have to replace your Euro-plate with a number plate featuring the GB sign without the EU flag.


Travelling with pets

You won’t be able to use the existing pet passport scheme; there will be a new process in place which could require you to plan up to 4 months ahead. The guidance applies to anyone travelling with pet cats, dogs or ferrets, however, the UK’s status within the scheme hasn’t yet been finalised so some requirements could change.

The current advice is to contact your vet at least 4 months before travelling to make sure your pet can come with you.


The information on this blog was updated 23rd November 2020 and is based on government guidance. Everything on this blog is subject to change so we recommend you keep up to date with the latest government announcements. If you’re our customer and plan to drive in the EU, please contact us for a Green Card – more on our FAQs.